Review: Wool, By Hugh Howey
A future underground sensation
Sunday 20 January 2013
Dystopian fiction is big business, but very little of it is true to the definition of the word as the polar opposite of Utopia, Sir Thomas More's near-perfect society. Much contemporary dystopian fiction seems to have more to do with apocalyptic zombie movies than George Orwell's 1984 or Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451.
Hugh Howey's Wool, though, is a proper futuristic dystopia in which the dead don't eat the living but rather harbour the secrets of what has gone before; secrets to be picked at and peeled away piece by piece to unveil the true horror of the world. It calls to mind the science-fiction movies they used to make so well in the 1970s – Logan's Run or George Lucas's THX 1138.
In most dystopian fiction, the characters don't know at first that they're living in a dystopia, and so it is with Wool. Thousands of people inhabit a gigantic silo below ground. A bank of sensors transmits images of a ruined, poisoned landscape into the sealed subterranean world, but the silo is the world in total, created by God so humanity can live in an inhospitable universe that reaches only as far as the sensors can see.
On the face of it, it doesn't seem too bad a society. Overseen by an elected mayor and a sheriff who keeps order; everyone employed on one of the 150 levels, from those mining on the bottom-most storeys to those working in the cafeteria near the surface. Crime is rare, and those who commit it are given the ultimate sentence: they are sent out into the toxic atmosphere to ritually clean the sensors before collapsing, dead.
When Juliette, an engineer from the lower storeys, is chosen to be the new sheriff, and then finds herself on the wrong side of the law, the carefully maintained façade of the silo begins to crumble in a tense, character-led narrative that holds your attention to the very end.
Howey is something of a publishing phenomenon. Wool was originally self-published as a series of interlinked novellas, shifting an aston- ishing 250,000 copies. The different sections sit well as a novel, and there is only a minor amount of jarring where they are stitched together. And, with the film rights already sold to Ridley Scott, Howey's Wool is likely to be spoken about in the same breath as The Hunger Games and The Passage before long.
film Sex scene trailer sees a shirtless Jamie Dornan turn up the heat
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Woman falls to her death as she celebrates marriage proposal at the edge of Ibiza cliff
- 2 Venezuela Expo Tattoo 2015: Extreme body art from 'Vampire Woman' to 109mm earlobes
- 3 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 4 Dad attempts revenge on teenage daughter, plan backfires spectacularly
- 5 Ball pool for adults opens in London
Game of Thrones, season 5: Grey Worm actor Jacob Anderson is all for more male nudity – as long as he can keep his clothes on
Venezuela Expo Tattoo 2015: Extreme body art from 'Vampire Woman' to 109mm earlobes
Game of Thrones really doesn't want Danny Dyer - EastEnders star rejected three times
Martin Scorsese 'in shock' after death on set of new film Silence
Game of Thrones season 5 trailer: The first full-length look is here
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures
King Abdullah dead: We can't afford not to hold Saudi Arabia's royals to account